Uncanny X-Men #489 Review

Brubaker continues to fail to capture the same magic on Uncanny X-Men that he has created over on Daredevil, Iron Fist and Captain America. Uncanny X-Men isn’t a poorly written title like its sister title X-Men. It just isn’t up to the high standard that I expect from a talented writer like Brubaker. I have faith in Brubaker and maybe Uncanny X-Men #489 will be the turning point for Brubaker. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with a news crew reporting about the mutant terrorist attack on a subway train full of passengers. We cut to Storm back at the Baxter Building using Reed’s computer to track where the Morlocks are hiding under the city.

We see Johnny Storm ribbing Warpath that he couldn’t use his tracking powers to find the Morlocks. Warpath has no sense of humor and snaps that the X-Men can’t operate in public like the Fantastic Four and that the news crews and investigators in the subway make it difficult for the X-Men to operate.

Storm enters the room along with the Thing and tells Warpath that she has found dour potential locations for them to check. Thing offers the Fantastic Four’s help to Storm. Storm declines the offer stating that dealing with mutant terrorists is something then X-Men have to do alone.

We shift to Professor X and Nightcrawler visiting a cemetery in White River Junction, Vermont (Ah, Vermont. One of the prettiest, cleanest and nicest states in all of America.) Professor X and Nightcrawler had visited a local Sheriff who claimed to have seen Magneto lately. Professor X used his powers to probe the local Sheriff’s mind without his permission. Professor X saw Magneto standing in front of a particular grave.

Xavier and Nightcrawler go to that grave and discover it is that of Percival Fellows, who was one of Magneto’s early henchmen. Fellows lost his powers during M-Day. Xavier mentions that Magneto was here to pay his respects or possibly to get a glimpse of what the future holds for all mutants.

We zip to a video by Masque being played on YouTube where Masque rants on about how the survivors of M-Day follow the teachings of Magneto and the word of the prophet. That humans have not won the war. That every single mutant left on this planet is a weapon and they won’t let humans ever forget that again.

We see the rest of Masque’s group yelling at Masque for making the video. Skids says that Masque is taking it too far. That he is interpreting the words of the prophet to fit his own desire for revenge. Masque spits out that Skids knows what is coming. Skids retorts that it is just a possibility. Skids says that the video was not a part of their mission and that she was there when they got their orders.

Masque then accuses Skids of being a traitor. We then see ONE soldiers outside of the room where Masque and his group are located. The ONE soldiers bust into the room and we suddenly cut to Professor X and Nightcrawler in the Blackbird. Professor X grabs his head and says he is picking up anxiety from scattered mutant thoughts. Professor X and Nightcrawler then see Masque’s video over the TV in the Blackbird. Professor X says that they are calling out Magneto. This means that their search is even more urgent and that they have to find Magneto before Masque and his maniacs do.

We cut to Storm, Warpath, Hepzibah and Caliban arriving at the location where Masque and his group were attacked by the ONE soldiers. The bodies of all the dead ONE soldiers litter the ground. The X-Men find Skids buried under some rubble from the fight. Suddenly, one of ONE’s Evangelion rip-off robots appears on the scene. The wannabe EVA attacks the X-Men under the misconception that they had something to do with the mutants that killed the ONE soldiers.

Suddenly, we see Skids stand up and flash her SHIELD badge. Skids orders the Eva wannabe ONE robot to stand down and that she is a SHIELD agent and that this is her investigation. End of story.

We then get an Endangered Species back-up story. Dark Beast and Beast debate their difference in tactics and styles to their research. Dark Beast yammers on about the benefits of science without scruples. The Beast is sick from talking with Dark Beast and doesn’t want anything to do with him. However, Dark Beast gives Beast a disk full of the personnel records from everyone at Neverland.

Dark Beast tells Beast that he needs Dark Beast. That Dark Beast can think the unthinkable and do the irrevocable and can see things that Beast won’t; let himself see. That Beast has tried to keep Dark Beast out of the Beast’s project because the Beast is afraid of him. Beast is afraid of what he would become once he stepped over the line. That the Beast would become better.

Dark Beast says that he is going to continue his research whether Beast likes it or not. So, they can either share or go on their own and take twice the amount of time as the mutant race stumbles into oblivion.

The Beast grudgingly agrees to work with Dark Beast as long as Dark Beast promises to follow Beast’s orders. The two shake hands and the Beast thinks how he already knows that he is going to regret this. End of issue.

The Good: Uncanny X-Men #489 was a great read! I knew my boy would eventually come through for me. Brubaker finally flashes his genius that we see on a monthly basis on his other titles. This issue was vintage Brubaker. This issue is delivered in Brubaker’s typical deliberate and measured pace that slowly, but surely, builds in momentum and tension that climaxes with a great ending.

Brubaker crafts his usual nice dialogue. We get some nice friction between Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four and Warpath of the X-Men that really highlights the differences between the two super teams. I’m glad that Brubaker is really emphasizing the fact that the X-Men are hated and mistrusted by the public. That while the Fantastic Four get to walk around like rock starts, the X-Men have to skulk around the shadows like social pariahs. T

This is an important quality to the X-Men that I think has really been missing on this title for a long time. It is cool that Brubaker is doing such a nice job tapping into that feeling of the X-men being a small minority that is hated by society that Claremont managed to really cultivate on his original run on Uncanny X-Men. I like it when the X-Men consist of a small group of characters that operate on the fringe of society rather than a super team that operates like the Avengers.

Brubaker continues that “Claremont” feel to this issue by having Masque unleash his hate filled video claiming credit for the terrorist attack on the subway train. I am totally digging the old school mutant terrorist theme. Masque’s threatening words that even though there are far fewer mutants on the planet after M-Day, that they won’t ever give up and they will never let humans forget that each mutant is a powerful weapon.

This is exactly how I like my evil mutants to act. Brubaker’s take on Masque is beginning to grow on me after this issue. I like Masque acting like a zealot who believes that terrorism is the path to salvation of the mutant race. Mutants don’t need numbers to be a threat. I don’t feel that mutants have to be threatening to take over the planet and becoming the dominant race. A small number of mutants is just as threatening if not more.

The fact that each mutant is a dangerous weapon makes them a threat to be feared by humankind. Humans may have numbers, but mutants have incredible powers. It levels the playing field. Brubaker’s use of Masque’s video advocating the return of some old school mutant terrorism was brilliant. It elevates the sense of urgency and impending doom in the story arc.

I also like that Brubaker is doing his best to bring back the wonderful shades of gray that Claremont had created with the Mutant struggle. Brubaker is avoiding making the Mutant dilemma a black and white choice for the reader like the Super Hero Registration Act has been that only leads to boring and un-engaging stories.

That was what always so enjoyable about Claremont’s take on the X-Men was that he was able to get the reader to truly sympathize for the innocent mutants who were horrifyingly attacked and killed by angry human mobs. God Loves and Man Kills is the best example of that.

However, Claremont also made the reader sympathize for the common man who felt like they were in danger of being killed by a rogue mutant at any given moment. The mutant terrorist attacks where enough for the reader to understand why your average person would fear and hate mutants.

And on top of it all, Claremont even got the reader to be sympathetic to the evil mutants like Magneto. The reader could understand why these mutants would want to operate by any means necessary when dealing with human oppression.

Brubaker is getting the reader to sympathize for the X-Men, but also is getting the reader to sympathize with the common man and why it is understandable for them to fear and hate mutants. And, hopefully, with the return of Magneto, Brubaker will return to the reader one of the most sympathetic villains you will ever read.

I am interested in learning more about the prophecy. Brubaker teases the reader with the fact that Masque is supposedly interpreting the prophecy differently to fit his own needs. And who was Skids and Masque taking orders from? I cannot wait for Brubaker to give us some more answers to all of these questions. Brubaker is doing a great job building anticipation in the reader surrounding this prophecy.

I continue to dig Brubaker’s version of Professor X. Xavier continues to use his powers more brashly than ever. And it makes perfect sense. Xavier is one of the most powerful characters in the 616 Universe. It is more believable that Professor X would be willing to use his powers more aggressively when dealing with a crisis. Given the dark days ahead for the dwindling mutant population, it is time for Xavier to let go of his self-imposed restrictions on the use of his powers.
I am excited to see what happens once Xavier and Nightcrawler find Magneto. I cannot wait to see what Brubaker has in store for Marvel’s greatest villain of all time. There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to make for one wild read.

Brubaker delivers a fantastic hook ending in this issue. The ending has a frenzied feel as we see all the dead ONE soldiers that shows the mutant terrorists are willing to take their zealous mission to a whole different level. Then we get the ONE robot brawling with the X-Men which has been a long time coming. The reader has been waiting for the simmering tension between the ONE soldiers and the X-Men to finally come to a boil. Brubaker uses this fight scene to re-enforce the fact that the X-Men are societal outcasts who are not trusted by law enforcement groups.

Then Brubaker drops a huge bomb on the reader with the revelation that Skids is actually a SHIELD agent. Skids has been working undercover this entire time. What an awesome twist! I love it. Brubaker is a master at throwing unexpected curves at the reader. I’m psyched to see what happens next.

Larroca provides more of his usual nicely painted artwork. Larroca’s painted style of art certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but it works nicely for me.

The Bad: The Endangered Species back-up story in this issue was pretty boring. Let me distill the eight pages of rambling dialogue into all that you need to know: Beast agrees to team up with Dark Beast. End of back up story. This eight page story could have easily been done in two or, maybe, three pages. To dialogue between Beast and Dark Beast was average and repetitious. Hopefully, the next Endangered Species back-up story will pick up the pace a bit. This story is beginning to drag a bit.

Overall: Uncanny X-Men #489 was a great read. I know it seems like I hate a lot on X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. But, the fact is, I only do that because I the X-Men has been my favorite Marvel title since I was a little kid. And it breaks my heart when we don’t get the quality story and art that I feel these flagship titles rightly deserve. I definitely have very high standards when it comes to the X-Men.

And it is great to see Brubaker finally delivering the same quality writing that he brings to his other titles. I have a feeling that Brubaker is finally hitting his stride on this title and that we can expect some pretty great things in the future on this title.

4 thoughts on “Uncanny X-Men #489 Review

  1. We get a sort of almost-reunion of Captain America partners, since Mike Perkins draws the backup story, while Ed Brubaker writes the main one.

    I really like the very real-world feel to some parts (Larocca’s scarily photo-real art plays a big part there), especially the opening news footage (the photo-realism makes the disfigured people stand out even more) and the “We2ube” site.

  2. As an addendum, this story continues to show how M-Day has utterly gutted the franchise; back in the day (1963-2005), the idea of the X-Men trying to stop terrorists from ruining the good name of mutants had real importance, because there were large numbers of mutants all over the world who were subject to potential attack or harassment as a result. And there were the new mutants being born every day. (as a sidenote, the idea that there were enough mutants under Morrison to form a genuine subculture hardly prevents them from being a minority; blacks and homosexuals have thriving cultures and large populations, but are undeniably minorities)

    Now, what is there? The idea of protecting mutants’ good name really has no big value; there are less than 190 of them worldwide, and most of them either live in a single armed camp in Westchester, or are members of opposing villain groups like the Marauders. The idea of the innocent mutant civilian has evaporated, as well as any concept of mutants as a real group. 190 people is simply too low a number to matter in the grand sociological scheme, which is where the X-Men used to be.

  3. The larger population offers more interesting story directions, in my opinion. The idea that the kid next door might develop dangerous powers and accidentally destroy your house is a very important part of the franchise, both from the perspective of humanity, and the idea behind Xavier’s School (another thing I liked about Morrison’s run was X-Corp, a truly global outreach).

    However, while you can get a lot of mileage out of that, things like Mutant Town in New York and the whole mutant nation of Genosha are also tremendously valuable ideas for the mythos; both offer more opportunities for real world metaphors; MT gives you things like China Town or a gay village (or a black ghetto), Genosha is something like Israel (the persecuted seeking refuge and making their own country, and all the problems and squabbles that come with it; I think Morrison’s getting rid of Genosha was a mistake, in the long term, despite all the good stuff he did).

    Morrison gave us mutant musicians, mutant fashion, a real sense of a subculture that extended beyond genetics. It was a huge leap forward, and one that I think the franchise needs to get back to.

  4. (Ah, Vermont. One of the prettiest, cleanest and nicest states in all of America.)

    Obiously, you sir have never been to the great state of Oregon. I invite you to visit and see if it is not the finest places on this or any other parrale earth.

    By the way, kodos on the new site design.

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